Katharine Staiger has a passion for bats and is on a mission to share her passion with as many people as possible.
To that end, Staiger recently delivered a presentation, entitled, A little about bats, at the Smithers Art Gallery.
For many, bats are a mystery and Staiger’s presentation to the more than 20 people on hand, helped clear up some misconceptions about bats, particularly the association between bats and rabies.
“You can get rabies from bats, but no more than other animals like dogs and various other creatures,” Staiger explained.
During the presentation, Staiger admitted her passion for bats is a recent development.
Although she’s always had a natural attraction for animals, Staiger said she still had an innate aversion to bats.
“The fact they could fly didn’t help,” she explained.
“There was just something gross about that.”
Completing a degree in biology at Guelph University, didn’t change how she felt about bats.
It took a while, but Staiger decided to face her aversion to bats.
In 2002 Staiger attended a five-day workshop in Pennsylvania, hosted by Bat Conservation International.
The workshop included night and day classes, introducing participants to all aspects of bat biology and the study of bats.
Participants learned how to use bat detectors, receivers that convert bat echolocation calls into sounds audible by the human ear, how to identify bats and various aspects of the biology of bats.
“I was absolutely dazzled,” Staiger said of her experience at the 5-day workshop.
“They were so fascinating and so cute.
“Each one has their own temperament.”
The best part, Staiger admitted, were the night sessions, where workshop participants took part in capturing bats with mist nets.
Catching the bats was easy, Staiger said, extracting the bats from the mist nets could be another matter.
“You’re trying to be careful and meanwhile they’re squawking and trying to bite you,” she said.
For Staiger, the next step in learning about bats is a workshop in Sudbury.focusing on the relationship between bats and abandoned mines. Staiger hopes what she learns in Sudbury can be of use to local mining companies and students in the School of Mining at NWCC.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to educate people about gating mines versus closing entrances off as well as doing some discovery work to see where bats are and preserve mines that are being used as hibernacula,” Staiger explained.
Also part of Staiger’s presentation was a discussion of the effects of white nose syndrome.
Caused by the Geomyces destructans fungus, the syndrome is so named because of the white fungal growth around the noses of affected bats.
The fungus has devastated cave-dwelling bats in eastern Canada and there’s a risk the fungus may find its way to B.C. and that has Staiger wanting to start a Bulkley Valley bat group which could contribute to the B.C. Bat Count.
Anyone with a bat roost can let Staiger know where the roost is and how many bats are in the roost.
“Like the [Christmas] bird count, it means we have an idea of numbers if things change,” Staiger said, referring to the risk of white nose syndrome.
Anyone interested in a Bulkley Valley bat group or otherwise interested in bats can contact Staiger at firstname.lastname@example.org.